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Author Archives: Karen R. Long

Novelist Peter Ho Davies Accepts 2017 Chautauqua Prize, Muses On Identity And Nuance In “The Fortunes”

Peter Ho Davies holds up the 2017 Chautauqua Prize while speaking about his book The Fortunes July 12, 2017 in the Hall of Philosophy. DAVE MUNCH/PHOTO EDITOR Peter Ho Davies – a gracious, wise and observant British-born fiction writer – welcomed a question about the title of his most recent work, “The Fortunes.” It won both the Chautauqua Prize and an Anisfield-Wolf Book Award this year. Tentatively called “Tell it Slant,” a reference both to Emily Dickenson and a racial slur against Asians, the edgy title pleased both Davies and his editor. But it gave a large book chain pause. And Davies realized its tone fit just one of the four chapters – short stories in a way – that compose his novel. Davies, clearly attuned to nuance, told an appreciative crowd at the... Read More →

Louise Erdrich Wins Big At National Book Critics Circle Awards, Urges Writers To “Be Fierce And Dangerous About The Truth”

Poet and novelist Louise Erdrich, wiping tears from her eyes, accepted the National Book Critics Circle Award Thursday night for her latest work, LaRose, before a cheering audience at New York’s New School auditorium. LaRose tells of two families linked by tragedy, based on a story Erdrich heard about a gun accident long ago. “And of course the story was only two lines long: ‘A man killed a boy. The man gave up his son to be raised by the other family,’ “Erdrich told Kirkus Reviews. “I never thought I’d write about it, but the story stayed with me.” The book is “an arresting, discerning, nimble novel that takes the entirety of Native American history in its grasp,” said critic Colette Bancroft as she introduced the prize. “Within that destiny, Erdrich is saying... Read More →

REVIEW: Mohsin Hamid’s “Exit West” Blazes Fresh Ground In Hot Political Climate

The blazing new novel from Mohsin Hamid opens with this sentence: “In a city swollen by refugees but still mostly at peace, or at least not yet openly at war, a young man met a young woman in a classroom and did not speak to her.” In “Exit West,” Nadia is “always clad from the tips of her toes to the bottom of her jugular in a flowing black robe,” a garb she will wear throughout her life. When Saeed meets her, they are taking an evening class on corporate identity and product branding, which seems like a sly reference to Hamid’s marvelous 2013 book “How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia.” Saeed watches the robed Nadia don a motorcycle helmet and swing a leg over her motorbike before rumbling off. Later, over their first coffee, he is surprised to learn she doesn’t... Read More →

“Thirty Million Words” Initiative Empowers Parents To Use Everyday Conversation As A Tool To Build Strong Brains

The Argentinean writer Jorge Luis Borges famously said, “I have always imagined that Paradise will be a kind of library.” Bibliophiles might say amen, but books are barriers, not passports, for the estimated 36 million adults in the United States who can’t read above a third-grade level. In Cuyahoga County, 400,000 people — almost half the population — read and calculate below an 8th-grade level, which bars them from standard job training; while 67 percent of Cleveland kindergarteners arrive “not fully prepared to start.” Into this grim turf – so far from Borges’ Paradise – rides a short woman, Dr. Dana Suskind, who founded the Thirty Million Words Initiative in Chicago. She came to Cleveland as a guest of the Literacy Cooperative, arriving with a PowerPoint and... Read More →

Anisfield-Wolf Authors Protest “Muslim Ban” In An Open Letter To President Trump

Sixty-six writers and artists – including seven Anisfield-Wolf recipients and two jury members – wrote an open letter to President Donald Trump asking him to desist from broadly banning travel to the United States by people from seven predominately Muslim countries. The letter, sponsored by PEN America, is timed to influence the president before he issues a second version of his original, sweeping travel ban, which is now stayed by the U.S. District Court of Appeals. “Preventing international artists from contributing to American cultural life will not make America safer, and will damage its international prestige and influence,” wrote the signatories, who include poet Rita Dove and historian Simon Schama, panelists on the five-member Anisfield-Wolf jury. The letter... Read More →

Novelist Laird Hunt On The Women Who Influenced His Midwestern Storytelling

Credit: Ulf Andersen/Aurimages/AFP FORUM Laird Hunt, Wikipedia will tell you, “is an American writer, translator and academic.”  True, as far as that goes. But readers of Hunt’s haunted, touched-by-the-fantastical fiction know it goes much deeper, and farther back. At 48, Hunt’s beard has grayed, and he’s updated his stylish glasses since 2013, when he won an Anisfield-Wolf Book Award for his antebellum novel “Kind One.” Today he describes that work as the beginning of a triptych, which grew to include his mesmerizing Civil War story “Neverhome” and the newly minted “An Evening Road.” This third book unspools in 1930 over a single August day and night in a sweltering rural Indiana that became notorious for a double lynching. Laird himself was a seventh-grade boy... Read More →

REVIEW: Laird Hunt’s “The Evening Road”

The Evening Road returns Laird Hunt to Indiana, where the Anisfield-Wolf winner lived on his grandmother’s farm during his high school years, and where his feel for the rural Midwest and its uncelebrated people has few equals in American literature. This seventh novel springs from one of the nation’s most troubled wells. Hunt tells it over a single summer night, anchored in the bloody lynching of two men – Abram Smith and Thomas Shipp -- in Marion, Indiana August 7, 1930.   “The events of that evening gave rise to the poem ‘Strange Fruit’ by Abel Meeropol, which was made famous as a song by Billie Holiday,” Hunt, now 48, writes about the source of his new novel. “At least 10,000 people (some put the number as high as 15k) flooded into the medium-sized town to attend the... Read More →

Let These Books — From Poetry To The Political — Kick Off Your 2017 Reading List

How does one structure a year in reading?The New York Times published the answers of 47 writers and artists who reflected on the books they chose over the past year. Their responses create a fascinating skein of reading and thinking, and include essays from four Anisfield-Wolf Book Awards recipients. The entire conversation, which weaves from basketball hall-of-famer Kareem Abdul-Jabbar to filmmaker Ava DuVernay to former House speaker Newt Gingrich to author Maxine Hong Kingston, is enlivening, a hopeful way to face into a new year.Praise for “The Underground Railroad,” the stupendous fall novel from Anisfield-Wolf winner Colson Whitehead, threads through these reflections. Salman Rushdie read it; so did the YA-writer John Green, Anne Tyler and Judd Apatow.Maxine Hong Kingston, who... Read More →

Winners Of 2016 Dayton Literary Peace Prize Bring Courage To Literature

Winners of the 2016 Dayton Literary Peace Prize from left to right: Viet Thanh Nguyen, winner for The Sympathizer; Marilynne Robinson, Holbrooke Award winner for Lifetime Achievement; Susan Southard winner for NagasakiMarilynne Robinson – she of the incandescent, Pulitzer-winning prose – wasn’t thinking about her celebrated fiction last month, even though she took clear pleasure recalling its pull in 2015 bringing President Barack Obama to Iowa to interview her. Instead, the winner of Lifetime Achievement from the Dayton Literary Peace Prize dwelt last month on her 1989 nonfiction Mother Country.“I can report that I’ve been sued only once – and that for a book about nuclear waste disposal by the United Kingdom that makes the Irish Sea the most radioactive water in the... Read More →

Tavis Smiley Brings “Courting Justice” To Cleveland

 Cross the American criminal justice system, and – if you are unlucky -- prepare for crushing debt.Here are a smattering of the possible fees awaiting defendants: for court appearances, for room and board in jail or prison, for court-required drug testing, counseling or community service, for a public defender or for electronic monitoring.In the two decades, tens of millions of Americans have been fined or billed as part of their punishment for a criminal offense. And this practice has spiked -- in 1986, 12 percent of those incarcerated were also fined, by 2004 some 37 percent were slapped with fines, while 66 percent faced both fines and fees.Late fees and collection penalties compound these debts into punitive amounts, especially for anyone living in poverty. In 2011, the city of... Read More →
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